Protests call on government to resolve past rights abuses in Aceh

Aceh Kita – December 11, 2007
Commemoration of International Human Rights Day in Aceh (Tempo)
Commemoration of International Human Rights Day in Aceh (Tempo)

Banda Aceh – Commemorating World Human Rights Day, hundreds of activists in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh held a torch-lit procession from the Simpang Lima roundabout to the City Park in front of the Baiturrahman Great Mosque on the evening of Monday December 10. They called on the government to resolve past human rights violations in Aceh trough a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission.

The action at the Simpang Lima roundabout began shortly after evening prayers at around 8pm local time. They carried torches and marched around the Simpang Lima roundabout while singing songs, giving speeches and handing out leaflets. The action created a traffic jam in and around the Simpang Lima area. A number of police officers could be seen busily directing the flow of traffic.

In a leaflet that was handed out to passers by, the protesters demanded that the government resolve past human rights violations by means of forming a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission, end violence and discrimination against women, the release of political detainees and prisoners and an end to the criminalisation of human rights defenders.

They also called for the government to undertake a reintegration program that supports justice for victims, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of houses damaged and burnt down during the prolonged conflict in Aceh and expressed their opposition to development that damages the environment. The statement was signed by 34 organisations including Interpeace and the Organisation for Migration.

Kurdinar, an activists from the Coalition of Human Rights Non-government Organisations said that the momentum created by World Human Rights Day on December 10 is being used to pressure the government to immediately form a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission in order that past human rights violations can be quickly resolved.

Kurdinar cited a number of human rights case that urgently need to be brought before the courts including the brutal actions by security forces at Simpang KKA in North Aceh (1999) and in Arakundo, Idi Cut, East Aceh.

Kurdinar said that there were many obstacles faced in resolving the crimes against humanity that have occurred in Aceh since it was declared a Military Operation Zone (1989-1998), during Operation Wibawa (1999) and the State of Martial Law and Civil Emergency (2003-2005).

The problem being that Law No. 11/2006 on Aceh Governance states that the courts can try human rights cases after this law was ratified. Kurdinar said however, that human rights activists in Aceh however use Law No. 26/2000 on the Establishment of a Human Rights Court as a reference. This law states that a court may try past humanitarian crimes (retroactive).

They are also urging the central government to revise the law on Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has been annulled by the Constitutional Court. “We are endeavoring that Aceh human rights violations can be tried in a human rights court”, said Kurdinar.

Kurdinar added that efforts to resolve human rights violations in Aceh were also being hindered by the slowness of the previous National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). They are now placing their hopes in the recently inaugurated new Komnas HAM leadership. “We were disappointed in Komnas HAM. But we hope that the new Komnas HAM will become a hope for upholding human rights, particularly in Aceh”, he said.

Meanwhile the coordinator of the Aceh Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Asiah Uzia said that up until now the central government has not been serious about the humanitarian crimes that have been committed in Aceh and Indonesia. Whereas Indonesia has already ratified a number of international human rights conventions. “The government must accelerate the resolution of human rights violations in Aceh”, asserted Uzia.

He also called on former Finish President Martti Ahtisaari – who mediated the Helsinki negotiations between the government and the Free Aceh Movement – to pressure Jakarta to resolve human rights cases in Aceh. Uzia said that rights activists in Banda Aceh would convey this request to Ahtisaari when he visits Aceh next week.

The torch-lit procession, which was joined by hundreds of activists ended at the City Park in front of the Baiturrahman Great Mosque where they gave speeches and sang songs. It was not until 10pm that the protesters finally disbanded. [dzie]